Proudly featured in the Muranow neighborhood of Warsaw, Poland is the Monument to Ghetto Heroes standing proudly at 36 feet tall. The monument stands in the same square as the Polin Museum which commemorates the Jewish Poles in the Warsaw Ghetto and in front of a Soviet Poland era apartment complex painting a picture rich with history and liberation. The statue depicts the defiant Jewish Partisans in the midst of their heroic uprising against the brutish Nazi occupiers that began on April 19th 1943. The monument was built by Nathan Rapoport under the direction of the Polish Communist government. The monument was built with the materials procured by Nazi architect Albert Speer who planned on the building of a monumenting celebrating the 3rd Reich. After the Red Army liberated Poland from the Nazis in 1945, the materials that were going to be used to build a Nazi monument were seized and used in the construction of the the Monument to Ghetto Heroes completed in 1948 which serves as further humiliation of Nazi Germany’s defeat.
Before the fascist occupation, the history of Jewry was rich in Poland, dating back 1000 years. In Warsaw, Poland, the Jews comprised one third of the city population. In fact, the Jews made up the largest minority group. Whereas pre-WWII Warsaw was comprised of nearly 400,000 Jews, today in all of Poland, there are only a few thousand who remained. The Jewish population in the 1930s not only suffered under Nazi Germans but also faced fascist violence in the streets, faced poverty, and faced boycotting of Jewish business. Many of the Polish population sympathized and welcomed the Nazi invasion.
The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising began on April 19th 1943. The heroic resistance to the Nazis was fought as a last effort after knowledge leaked that Jews being deported by Nazis and their collaborators, the Judenräte (Jewish Councils) and Jewish ghetto police, were being sent to Treblinka Concentration camp where they were being liquidated. The uprising lasted for three weeks and was led by the left-wing United Jewish Combat Organization which was led by Jewish Communists, Socialists, Left Zionists, and the Jewish Labor Bund against their fascist occupiers, tormentors, and murderers. Though only several hundred strong, the United Jewish Combat Organization partisans fought so bravely and fiercely the Nazis were forced to retreat on several occasions. The Nazis then cowardly resorted to the systematic burning of the ghetto block by block resulting in 13,000 inhabitant deaths. The uprising officially ended on May 16th 1943 after the Nazis completely destroyed the Great Synagogue of Warsaw.
Ever since the overthrow of socialism in Poland in 1989, the new capitalist government has battled with communists, socialists, and other leftwing groups over claims to the history of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. The present government claims to represent the Jewish victims and martyrs all while being closely allied with the current fascist regime in Ukraine. This is in sharp contrast to the dreams of the Polish People’s Republic which shared ideals with the Warsaw Ghetto partisans. Today, Fascism is draped in a xenophobic, ultra-nationalist, and anti-communist mask.
This years’ memorial will be marked with the songs and readings of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising heroes at the Monument to Ghetto Heroes where the Jews were violently deported to their deaths at the hands of the Nazis. Notable are the words by Jewish, Socialist, and anti-Zionist Marek Edelman who is the last remaining survivor of the Jewish Combat Organization that resisted the Nazis. Edelman’s statements contradicted the Zionist line that the uprising was a battle for “national honor” in order to justify the treatment of Palestinians by the Israeli far-right government. He instead asserted that the battle was “for dignity and freedom, not for territory, nor for a national identity.”
The United Jewish Peoples Fraternal Order condemns the Far right government of Poland today for paying lip service to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising while continuing to crack down and outlawing the Communist Party, other opposition parties, and labor movements, pushing ultra-nationalism, and especially for their unrelenting support of the fascist regime in Ukraine that glorifies figures like Stepan Bandera. It is up to the progressive Jewish organizations to reclaim our history and not allow it to be exploited by people who share the ideology of those who committed these atrocities, the Nazis.
Co-Chair of the United Jewish Peoples Fraternal Order